CWG 2022: Can Savita Punia Inspire Women's Hockey Team To Win Over Australia?
India had stunned Australia 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics last year and come Friday, the Savita Punia-led side would look to do an encore here in the Commonwealth Games.
The Indian women's hockey team would look to draw inspiration from its Tokyo Olympics success when it takes on mighty Australia in the second semifinal of the Commonwealth Games here on Friday. India had stunned Australia 1-0 in the quarterfinals of the Tokyo Olympics last year. And come Friday, the Savita Punia-led side would look to do an encore here. But it would be easier said than done as Australia are by far the dominant force in the CWG with four gold medals in six editions since hockey's introduction at the Games in 1998.
Ahead of the semi-final the FIH released an interview with the India captain, where she talks about how she took to the sport, the growth of women's hockey in India and the impact of the 4th-place finish at Tokyo Olympics.
Here are the excerpts
Q: Can you share your journey with the Indian hockey team? The emotions and feelings from making your debut to captaining the team now?
A: ‘I started playing Hockey in 2004 and made my debut for India in 2008. My Parents believed that I would play for India someday. I think I was not completely dedicated to playing Hockey, but the first time I played for India, and when the national anthem played in the stadium, I decided there was no going back. I decided I would do whatever I could for my parents, for my country and for myself with complete dedication. I am very happy with the progress I have made from that day to today, and even the progress we have made as a team; which I feel quite proud of as it's captain.
Q: How has hockey evolved in India, especially women's hockey, in the time that you have been playing?
A: When I started playing in 2008, our seniors used to mention that they had to struggle a lot, they didn't get a lot of exposure, but since then I feel like we have been very lucky, because since the beginning for me, the work Hockey India has done for us has been great. We haven't had to ask for things, because we have been given everything without having to ask for it. Hockey India, Sports Authority of India and Odisha government have all come together to provide us the platform where we can now compete against the top teams in the world, and feel like whoever we are playing against, we have a chance of defeating them. So, I think has been the biggest difference. Having more exposure has led to better performances overall.
Q: What does success for women's team mean for hockey in India?
A: Our best performance so far has been at the Tokyo Olympics, where we finished in the top-4, and just missed out on a medal. But honestly, I believe, and the whole team believes, that we deserve more. We finished lower than our expectations at the FIH Hockey Women's World Cup 2022 but our performances were better than the results we got. We have to refocus on the upcoming events though and bring home medals for our country.
Q: Message for the fans and how they can support you.
A: Fans have supported us throughout and hockey is especially beloved in India, so all I can ask is they continue giving us the same support, which motivates us a lot. I know everyone had higher hopes from us in the World Cup. We had higher hopes too, having improved a lot after the Olympics. The results did not match that, but if you keep sending your good wishes our way, we will keep improving in the upcoming tournaments. Thank you!
(With PTI and FIH inputs)